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The Hive (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – October 9, 2012
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Burns continues the story begun in X’ed Out (2010) of Doug, the victim of a mysterious head injury who vacillates between a dreamed existence, in which he’s toiling as a delivery boy in a hivelike netherworld populated by grotesque figures, and his memories of his doomed relationship with the troubled Sarah and her violent ex-boyfriend. The two realities begin to overlap. In the hive, Doug delivers old-fashioned romance comics to Lily, one of the young “breeders” enslaved to produce workers as the waking Doug reminisces about Sarah’s fondness for the kitschy comics. While the hive sequences have the nightmarish logic of a fever dream, Sarah’s disturbing behavior and Doug’s discoveries about his emotionally inaccessible father make his waking life seem somehow even more unsettling. Burns’ straightforward, hard-edged artwork, with its sensuous brushwork and dramatic shadows, makes both realities creepily convincing. Doug’s fate and the significance of the eerie hive will presumably be resolved in the third volume of this trilogy. Until then, Burns’ fans can luxuriate in the pair of bizarre worlds that he’s created. --Gordon Flagg
Praise for The Hive:
“Burns’s oeuvre is frequently cited as ‘strange,’ but that’s perhaps oversimplifying a world more thought-provokingly described as recognizably like our own, except for when it’s not—and it’s the difference between the two where Burns’s power to shine a light on the darker side of human nature lies…the result will stick with readers long after being absorbed.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The Hive is a tour-de-force of psychedelic storytelling, an astonishing piece of graphic literature that combines strange characters, even stranger situations and locales, and multi-leveled narratives in a way you have never seen before on the page. Burns’ work is utterly unique, and he has no fear about experimenting and trying to engage the reader in new ways. Perhaps his greatest gift is finding a way to make you find empathy for people and things that you would normally find off-putting or disgusting. Burns is one of the few talents who stands above the medium, and deservedly so. Easily one of the finest works you’ll see this year.” –Comics Waiting Room
“As if the introduction to this series wasn’t hallucinatory enough, this second installment will leave initiates feeling significantly disoriented. And perhaps that’s part of the point, as Burns blurs the distinctions within this anti-narrative among comic books, reality, drugs, masks, nightmare and identity…A very creative artist lets his imagination loose in the middle of somewhere, where only the most adventurous lovers of graphic narrative might dare to tread.” –Kirkus
“Burns’ clean, highly refined style contributes to an unnerving reading experience when reconciled with the slippery, seething and roiling quality of a story as it’s taking place—on multiple levels of consciousness, timeframes and planes of existence…Burns is making us slow down and savor this morsel of brilliance in a timeframe that starts to even out the ratio of writing time to reading time. If that’s vindication for an author—one whose visual style incorporates thousands of beautiful hash marks, each tapered perfectly with a tiny brush—then I’m all for it.” –The Comics Journal
“If you want to play against type and give a completely nonholiday gift for the holidays, wrap up a copy of Charles Burns’s The Hive. It’s a creepy tour de force, weaving together layers of paranoid nightmares, and a sequel to Burns’s X’ed Out. It’s as though the tenants of Ware’s townhouse all dropped bad acid at the same time, and Burns’s drawing delivers the horror in full-color, palm-sweating detail, complete with armies of maggots, sadistic lovers, and desolate underground factories patrolled by foul-mouthed alien overlords. Not a stocking stuffer for the little ones.” –Boston Globe gift guide
“Intelligent, carefully crafted and emphatically not for everyone.” –Paste Magazine
“The beautifully disturbing, non-linear tale leaps effortlessly between the real and unreal. Though in this installment, the lines further blur as elements from the bizarrely apocalyptic reality and the ‘normal’ collide. Inspired equally by the works of Hergé and William Burroughs, Burns once again provides one of the best graphic novels of the year.” –Nexus Graphica Top Ten
Praise for X'ed Out:
"Terrifically creepy . . . I loved every second of this book." —Boing Boing
"Burns's comics are fluid, smooth and as solidly built as a vintage TV set, but they shudder with the chill of the uncanny." —The New York Times Book Review
"A surrealistic, often horrifying book . . . a Tintin homage for grown-ups." —The Stranger
"A fantastic meta-reality where Burns' spastic yet tightly reined imagination is allowed to feed on itself deliciously." —AV Club, "A" review
"Taps into the archive of gothic and grotesque imagery . . . What's dormant inside of Tintin—the abject fear that Hergé rarely acknowledges—X'ed Out brings to life." —The Comics Journal
"Cause for celebration . . . a visual feast as much as a literary one, and it dwells in the mind long after the final pages have turned." —Culture Mob
"Tantalizing...a gorgeous head trip." —New York Magazine
"Bizarre, haunting, horrific, funny . . . Burns is skilled at paralyzing readers, and leading us into worlds we never knew existed." —USA Today
Top customer reviews
By the way, considering the evolution of the story and the graphics, there is a lot of good stuff that will probably make a lot more sense with the third book - and shut my mouth forever!
Let's wait for Sugar Skull!
In this, his newest series, He's creating a bizarre world of hard narcotic hallucinations bringing on, what one can only call, an ultra bizarre mix of Tin-Tin and William S. Burroughs! It's really fantastic. The only part that has me scratching my head, is that it's a proposed 'three-part' series and I can't for the life of me see how this story will be completed in three parts? The first book was terrific, but left the reader a bit perplexed as to exactly what was happening at the end. In this installment, the bizarre story starts us off in a confused and difficult state. This isn't a bad thing, but by the time we're able to get a 'foot hold' on what's happening in this one, we are thrown off again into another 'whirl' of confusion-again, this is fine- I love difficult and challenging work. But I can only expect that the last installment must be exceptionally longer than either of these two, or that it's a story that will leave us in a state of perpetual confusion. Perhaps that is the point? Either way, I'm waiting with baited breath for the next installment of Burns' new work-he just gets better and better.